Archive for June, 2019

How Restaurants Can Use Pinterest Effectively

Pinterest may not have the eye-watering user numbers as Facebook (2.4 billion/month) or Instagram (1 billion/month).

But at 250 million monthly users, there is still a robust (and growing) base of dedicated Pinners out there.

And the people who do use Pinterest are the people you want to reach! Half of millennials use Pinterest — the generation that eats out more than any other. And a full 7 in 10 moms report using it as well. When you consider that 90% of women control their household spending, it becomes clear that your customers are on Pinterest!

If you’re not familiar with the platform, here’s how it works:

Pinterest is a way to save images from across the internet in one place. Users create “boards” with whatever themes they want and then save and organize “pins” to each board. Just about any image on the internet can be saved to Pinterest. And each pin links back to the original source. For you, that could be your restaurant website or Facebook page.

So how can you, a restauranteur, use Pinterest as a helpful marketing tool?

Set up a Business Account

The first thing you’ll need is a business account. A business account (rather than a personal account) will provide analytics and allow you to use Pinterest’s advertising features.

After you’ve created your account, you can complete your business profile. Add your website, logo, and some information about your restaurant. 

You’ll also want to follow the instructions to confirm your website. By using this feature, you’ll get additional helpful analytics. It will also add your logo to any pins that come from your website. There’s a tutorial here to help link your Pinterest account to several different types of websites.

Create Boards

Once your account is set up and linked to your website, you can start posting your own content to Pinterest. 

To start, create a Board. A Board is simply a place to organize pins with a similar theme.

You can create as many boards as you like. For example, Chipotle has 21 different boards on Pinterest. Some examples: 

  • Grow — A board focused on gardening. This makes sense for Chipotle, since one of their core values is a focus on fresh ingredients and responsible farming.
  • Cook — Inspiring recipes that they’ve saved from other blogs and websites.
  • Build — Highlights new stores going up around the world.
  • Wear — Dedicated to Chipotle merchandise.

You could do one focused on your menu and recipes. Another could be pictures of charitable events that your staff participates in. 

You could also have a board highlighting interesting things to do in your city. Or if your restaurant is in a historic area, you could set up a board to share pictures of the neighborhood as it’s changed through the years. 

One helpful feature of Pinterest — you can add collaborators to your board. If you have a photographer or marketing person on staff, you may want to add them as collaborators so they can make their own pins.

Start Pinning

After you have your first board set up, you can start adding pins. A pin is simply an image card (along with a caption and website link) that you will save to your board. Pins can be added from other sites across the web, or you can upload images directly to Pinterest. 

Keep in mind that Pinterest is a tool of discovery. You want your images to be interesting and helpful. People look to Pinterest for inspiration and recommendations. So pins like recipes, table layouts, cooking tips, or wine pairings could all do well. 

Also, think beyond the food. Pin pictures of picturesque areas of your restaurant. Not only will this attract potential diners, but your pins may get re-pinned by interior designers or branding firms. The result will be more exposure for your restaurant.

Don’t think you have to create 100% unique content to add to Pinterest. Different social platforms have different users. So it’s okay to re-purpose some of your Instagram posts for your Pinterest audience!

After you’ve been pinning for a while, look at your analytics to see which pins get the most engagement and which drive the most traffic to your website. Repeat their success by adding more pins with similar themes.

Encourage Other Pinners

Many Pinterest fans download the “Pin It” button to their browsers. This lets them easily capture images from other websites as they’re exploring the web. 

But you should also add a Pinterest button to your own website, just like a Facebook or Twitter button. This will encourage users to share your content on their own Pinterest boards for free, user-generated promotion of your restaurant.

Just like any other social media site, one of the goals is engagement. But Pinterest users don’t do as much commenting as users on some other social sites. Re-pins and likes are more common than comments. 

So encourage re-pins of your content. Maggiano’s Little Italy did a “Pin it to Win It” promotion with huge success. Each week, they would award a $100 gift card to a Pinterest user who had re-pinned one of their images. The result was a huge increase in Pinterest engagement.

Remember, the door swings both ways. So when a user shares one of your pins, leave them a comment to say thank you. 

Also, search Pinterest for content that is relevant to your restaurant. If you serve Italian food, search for pins related to home-made pasta, popular Continental classics, or even images of the Italian countryside. Give this relevant content a like or re-pin it to one of your own boards.

By engaging with other users, you’ll encourage them to engage back.

When to Pin

Pin regularly. Spread out your pins across the week, rather than saving them up and pinning them all at once.

Some stats say that you should be pinning at least 5 times per day. While more pins will maximize your engagement, don’t get too caught up in the numbers when you’re just starting out. Commit to pinning a few times per week, and increase your frequency from there.

Research indicates that the best times to pin on Pinterest are:

  • 2 pm — 4 pm
  • 8 pm — 11 pm
  • 2 am — 4 am 

Pinterest makes it easy for you to post during these peak times. After you create your pin, you can schedule it to post anytime in the next two weeks. You can create and schedule up to 30 posts at a time through your Pinterest business account.

Request Rich Pins

Rich Pins provide a little more oomph to your posts. The purpose of Rich Pins is to add extra information to your pin without requiring the user to click through to the source site. And the information stays with the pin, even if it’s re-pinned and the caption is changed. One study suggests they can increase website traffic by 36%!  

Rich Pins are limited to four specific types: Recipe, Article, Product, and App.

Product Pins include pricing and where to buy. You could use this type of Rich Pin if you sell merchandise or pre-packaged food items online. 

Recipe Pins list ingredients, cook time, and serving sizes. You can use this pin to share a popular restaurant recipe with your followers.

Article Pins include a headline, author, and article description. Post an Article Pin to share your good press with the world.

And App Pins allow users to install an app directly from the pin, without visiting an app store. You can use this type of pin if your restaurant has its own app.

You’ll have to request Rich Pins be added to your account before you can use them on Pinterest. Make sure your website is confirmed (see Set up Your Business Account above) before you request Rich Pins. But it’s worth the extra step to gain access to this valuable tool.

Consider Paid Advertising

The low cost of social media is one of its great selling points. But if you want to boost your reach, consider using Pinterest’s Promoted Pins. 

Pinterest estimates that it provides a $4.30 gross return for every advertising dollar spent. That’s a pretty good ROI! 

And unlike Instagram or Facebook ads, where there is no way to save the ad for future use, Pinterest ads are all pinnable! So if a bride-to-be sees your Promoted Pin for catering, she can easily save it to her wedding board as a reminder to inquire about pricing!

And when someone saves your Promoted Pin, their followers can see it as well. Even after the paid promotion ends, that pin will still be on the users’ boards.

Wrapping Up

55% of Pinterest’s users say they log on to find products, vs. only 12% for Facebook and Instagram! So it’s clear that Pinterest is where the buyers are.

While the platform isn’t quite as straightforward as Facebook or Instagram as a marketing tool, users are still highly engaged and represent a large portion of restaurant customers. Adding it to your roster of social media platforms can expand your reach, earn more brand awareness, and bring bodies through the door! 

With such a powerful tool at your disposal, it’s time to start pinning!


IsoTops: A Low Maintenance Alternative for Indoor or Outdoor Tables

From finishing the schedule to dealing with a dinner rush to covering shifts yourself, you don’t want to be worrying about the durability of your table tops each time you open up your patio. As a restaurant owner, you have enough to worry about!

IsoTop Sliq tables provide a modern, stylish table option that are still subtle enough to coordinate with any theme or concept. True to the “Sliq” name, these IsoTops have a thin European ½” edge profile that look great in any of the finishes.

Add character to your patio with these five matte finish options by scrolling through this slideshow:

  • East Coast Chair & Barstool's Gray Oak IsoTop Sliq Table Top
    Gray Oak IsoTop Sliq Table Top: A great alternative to putting real wood outside with its wood grain pattern!
  • Gray Oak- A great alternative to putting real wood outside with its wood grain pattern!
  • Cement- This pattern has the appearance of a poured cement, without the roughness!  
  • Dark Mica- If you like the look of stone, Dark Mica has the color and fine details that make it look like a stone table top!
  • Metal Line- This table is distressed with variations in color and even looks like it has a texture, all with a matte finish!
  • Black Steel- A darker, weathered look, this metal-looking table gives a lot of character to your outdoor space!

Not only do these table tops look good, they’re versatile too! IsoTops are a great option because they can be used indoors or outdoors at your restaurant.

These tables are made extremely durable through their manufacturing process. A combination of blended resins, wax, and wood pulp mixed with high heat and pressure create the characteristically dense core of these tables. Each IsoTop is fully laminated with several layers for extra durability and is pre-stressed to avoid warping.

Give your outdoor dining the smooth finish and look of durable IsoTop Sliq tables.

Which IsoTop pattern would you want to integrate into your outdoor design?

4 Up and Coming Food Cities of 2019

Once upon a time, the established wisdom declared that great food in this country was the domain of New York City. Of course, this was never actually true. There was and is great food across the nation, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine.

Still, sometimes a surge occurs in a particular city that makes the rest of us sit up and take notice. A place that was never known for its food is suddenly attracting attention from critics and foodies alike.

This seems to be happening more and more these days. Creative young chefs with dreams of starting their own restaurant are flocking to smaller cities where rents are reasonable and competition is less fierce.

A newly vibrant restaurant scene often accompanies a town’s revitalization. Old warehouse spaces in a defunct downtown become hip new eateries, attracting more shops, residents, and eventually, public transit.

So it’s always exciting when a new (to us) food hotspot makes waves. Here are four up-and-coming food cities that we think you’ll want to visit!

Sacramento

When the land surrounding your city grows 40% of the country’s fruit and a third of its produce, the phrase “farm-to-table” takes on a whole new meaning.

California’s Central Valley provides produce for restaurants across the nation. But Sacramento’s proximity means those carrots weren’t picked two weeks ago — they were picked two days ago.

Long overshadowed by Los Angeles to the south and San Francisco to the southwest, Sacramento is becoming a food destination of its own. The city provides a respite from the outrageous pricing in San Francisco — one of the most expensive rental markets in the country.

More affordable restaurant space for chefs equals more affordable menu prices for patrons.

One of the hallmarks of a burgeoning food scene seems to be at least one upscale food hall. And wouldn’t you know, Sacramento got their very own in November 2018. The Bank, located in a 100-year-old bank building, currently has four operating restaurants, with more to come.

Where to Eat in Sacramento

So many delicious options. Try Beast and Bounty. The “Beast” section of the menu provides a range of meat and seafood dishes, while the “Bounty” section focuses on imaginative vegetarian options.

If you like to let the chef take the lead, try The Kitchen. This award-winning restaurant only has one option — their seasonal five-course prix fixe menu. Past courses have included morel and crème fraiche tortelloni and rose beef loin poached in truffle butter.

Tampa

Across the country, the good people of Tampa, Florida are experiencing a food revolution of their own.

After an economic decline in the 70s and 80s, the city is undergoing a revitalization. Upgrades to the Tampa Riverwalk, new downtown mixed-use development, and museum improvements are all part of the area’s resurgence.

Native Floridians will tell you that there has always had a strong food culture here, thanks in part to the culinary traditions brought by Cuban, German, Italian, and Spanish immigrants.

But that has all become more visible lately. A few recent James Beard nominations and the renewal of neighborhoods like Seminole Heights has put Tampa on the food map.

A walkable neighborhood of historic homes, Seminole Heights has become a mecca for vintage shops, craft cocktails, and tasty eats. Local favorite Rooster & the Till serves upscale creative small plates. A few minutes away, Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe keeps the area funky with comfort food, eclectic art, and local live music.

Ybor City is another foodie destination. Just north of Downtown Tampa, this neighborhood is like a love letter to the history, art, and food of the region. Visit in April to experience Ybor Aficionado Days — a walking tour through Ybor’s “tapas trail” with bites at every stop.

Where to Eat in Tampa

Tampa is home to not one, but two new food halls. First to open was the Hall on Franklin. It has a seafood and raw bar, poke, dessert, coffee, and cocktails.

Newer on the scene is Heights Public Market with contemporary ramen, modern Cuban, sushi, pizza, specialty sandwiches, and more. It’s all inside the Armature Works Building — the former storage facility for Tampa’s streetcars.

Indianapolis

Outside of Chicago, the midwest doesn’t get a lot of love from the culinary set. And that’s a real shame, because cities like St. Louis, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Madison, Wisconsin all have some amazing restaurants.

But today, we’re going to talk about Indianapolis. Once you get away from the mega-sports complexes downtown, you’ll find international flavors, new American cuisine, and cocktails from traditional to tiki.

The International Marketplace is a haven of tastes from around the world. You’ll find food from countries as varied as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Guinea, Japan, China, India, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico — too many to list. There are 80 different ethnic restaurants here!

Not far away is the Broad Ripple neighborhood, one of Indianapolis’ seven cultural districts. The area features unique spots like Locally Grown Gardens. Part restaurant, part farmer’s market, the stars of the show are the hog roast and sugar cream pie.  

To learn a little while you’re there, visit Chef JJ’s Back Yard. They offer classes ranging from pizza to seafood to kamado-style steak to smoking in a Big Green Egg.

And of course, there is a food hall taking over a once-defunct historical property. The Garage Food Hall in the Bottleworks District is coming to Indianapolis’ old Coca-Cola bottling plant. Expected to open in spring 2020, the area will hold more than 25 food and drink concepts.

Where to Eat in Indianapolis

Located in a renovated 1924 factory warehouse, James Beard semifinalist Bluebeard regularly tops the local “best of” lists. Menu items range from small plates of modern oysters Rockefeller to full-sized ribeyes and pork chops.

For a more laid-back meal, try Tinker Street near downtown. Korean chicken & waffles, summer rolls filled with poached shrimp and mango, and pad thai with squash noodles are all on the eclectic menu. They even serve “corn dogs” — but foie gras bratwurst and pepper jelly make them decidedly grown-up.

Las Vegas

To those of us who have only visited the City of Lights for the strip, it could be surprising to consider it a dining destination. While there is good food at the casinos, it doesn’t have the reputation of being terribly imaginative.

But an interesting thing happened when big name chefs started bringing their concepts to the area in the 1990s and 2000s.

Once their restaurants were established, the celebrity chefs went back to their homes in fashionable New York or LA. But someone had to run the kitchens in their absence. So they hired great young talent.

And when it came time for those young chefs to make their next move, some found the low cost of living and great weather enough reason to stay in Vegas.

The result is an exciting food scene to supplement some of the great food that was already here, hidden in plain site.

The hip Arts District has experienced a rebirth, full of galleries, antique shops, condos, and of course, restaurants.

Executive Chef James Trees of Esther’s Kitchen cut his teeth at the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace before opening Esther’s in 2016. It’s now a local favorite serving “Italian soul food” like bucatini carbonara and brunch pizza with quail eggs and bacon.

In Spring Mountain, a less trendy part of town, a huge commercial Chinatown has sprung up. There are an estimated 150 restaurants here!

In fact, “Chinatown” is a bit of a misnomer — cuisine ranges from regional Chinese to sushi, udon, ramen, pho, Thai, and more. It’s a cultural melting pot with a massive following from the locals. Popular joints can have lines day and night.

Where to Eat in Las Vegas

Forte Tapas looks unassuming at first glance. Located in a strip mall, it may not be where you’d expect to find Bulgarian tapas or cocktails like a Smoked Vanilla Chai Old Fashioned. But they’re celebrating their 10-year anniversary, so clearly they’re doing something right.

Back in Chinatown, visit Lamaii for outstanding Thai food in an upscale setting. They have all the standards like Pad Thai and Pad See Aew. But try the Mun Pu Fried Rice — rice cooked in crab fat with lump crab meat.

So many delicious places to eat, and so little time to get to them all!

What do you think of our list? Are there any up-and-coming food cities that you’re excited about? Let us know below!

What is the Cost of Shipping for Restaurant Furniture?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

We live in a world where we’ve become accustomed to free or cheap shipping: free two-day shipping on that new laptop that you bought from Amazon Prime, or a flat $5.99 shipping on that silver charm bracelet that you got your wife for mother’s day. Those items ship via small package carriers like the US Postal Service, UPS Ground, or FedEx. They’re limited in size, weighing only a couple of pounds on average, and arrive at your front door in days.

Not all goods are as easy, or as cheap, to ship, however. Take restaurant furniture, for example. It’s big, bulky, heavy, and often ordered in multiple pieces (think 40 chairs, 10 bar stools, and 10 tables). For that reason, furniture is put on pallets and ships via a different method called less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier. LTL carriers take large palletized freight, and deliver it to your business on large semi-trucks.

There are many factors that determine the cost of shipping restaurant furniture via LTL carrier, some are obvious, and others, while not immediately apparent, make sense when you think about them. Here is a short list of the most important variables in the shipping calculation, along with a brief explanation.

Distance Between Shipper & Customer

The distance between the shipper and the customer (receiver) is one of the more obvious factors in the cost of shipping; we naturally expect that shipping from Boston to California will be more expensive than, say, shipping from Pennsylvania to Ohio. More distance means higher fuel costs and more driver time (wages). In addition, long trips often require a team of drivers that can alternate driving time in order to get the shipment to its destination in a timely manner.

Location

Shippers have what are called “good lanes” and “bad lanes”. A good lane is one that sees a lot of daily freight traffic, so the carrier knows that if they send a truck to that location, the odds are good that they will be able to fill the truck on the return trip. A bad lane is one in which there isn’t a lot of freight coming out, which means that the carrier may have to return empty, or only partially full. If a carrier can’t fill the truck, then they are making less money, or even losing money, on that trip. If a lane is bad for a carrier, then they will often charge more per piece to compensate themselves for the fact that they may not be able to fill the truck on the return. One prime example of a “bad lane” is Florida. There is a lot of freight going in to Florida, but not much coming out (for various reasons), so carriers will often charge a premium to deliver there.

Destination Type (Residential, Commercial, or Limited Access)

Customers often ask why it costs more to send a shipment to their home than it does to send the same shipment to their business. There are actually many reasons, but we’ll just list a few. First, businesses tend to be located in areas where large trucks can easily get in and out (if not, then they’re called limited access locations and are subject to the same fees as residential locations). Residential streets, on the other hand, are often too narrow for large semis to maneuver, so carriers have to send in a smaller truck, which means more handling of your freight. Second, businesses generally have somebody (or multiple people) and equipment on hand during business hours to unload the truck quickly and efficiently. Carriers know that they can just show up, open their doors, and the employees of the business will take care of the rest. With residential delivery, carriers have to call ahead to coordinate delivery, work around the homeowner’s schedule, and wait there until they unload the truck – often by hand.

Size of the Shipment

To simplify this point, let’s say you’re an LTL carrier that delivers from New York City to Orlando, FL. You know that to cover your costs and make a profit, you need to charge $3000 per truck for the trip. Now, a customer comes along and wants to ship 100 barstools to Orlando, which will take up about ⅓ of the truck. How much do you need to charge them? Of course, $1000! Now this is an over-simplification of the complex algorithms that carriers use to determine freight rates, but it does illustrate the point that the more of the truck you take up with your shipment, the more you pay.

Weight of the Shipment

You might be tempted to think that weight is the biggest factor in determining your freight costs, but that would be wrong. Weight does play a role, but it’s a smaller role than other variables. For example, according to one freight carrier website, you can ship a 48” x 48” x 60” pallet that weighs 200 pounds from Mercer, PA to Beverly Hills, CA (thank you Beverly Hills 90210 for being perpetually stuck in my brain and giving me a test zip code for life) for around $300. If we double the weight to 400 pounds, the rate only goes up around $50. Triple the weight, and you only increase another $20. How is this possible? Freight shippers use something called freight class, which is based on the density of your shipment: large, light materials have a high freight class, while smaller, denser materials have a lower freight class. As we raise the weight of the shipment, our density calculations go up, and our freight class goes down, which means that our overall rate only goes up a little bit for each additional pound that we ship.

Additional Services (Accessorials)

Accessorials are small additional services carriers provide that add up in a big way. Need a phone call before delivery? That’ll be up to $25, please. Want a lift gate to lower your pallets to the ground? They can range between $50 up to $200 depending on the carrier. Want the driver to bring your freight into the building? Don’t even ask! The point is that accessorial charges can be expensive, and should be avoided when possible.

As you’ve probably noticed, LTL freight is different from small package shipping in many ways. It can sound expensive at first, but there are two important things to remember.

  1. If you put 20 chairs on a pallet and it costs $200 to ship them, then that is only $10 per chair. If you were to ship the same number of chairs individually via small package delivery, the cost would be much higher.
  2. Truly free shipping is pretty much non-existent. You are almost always paying the freight, even if it doesn’t seem like it. It might come in the form of higher prices or reduced service levels, but shipping is always part of the cost of ordering restaurant furniture.

We hope this guide shed some light on the often confusing world of LTL freight and the true cost of shipping restaurant furniture.

If you have any additional questions, our shipping department is always happy to help. Just give us a call 800-986-5352.